Cloud Engines Pogoplug for Photographers–A Device that Allows Remote External Hard Drive Access

By Matthew Bamberg / Feb 13, 2013

by Matthew Bamberg
Pogoplug device permits roaming access to external hard drives
A new kid on the block has moved into the storage/back-up business, one that photographers are sure to seriously consider for their image-archiving needs. Pogoplug (produced by Cloud Engines Inc) might not be a household name like Carbonite and Google Cloud Drive, but they’re sure to be a tough competitor for both. Pogoplug’s Family back up and storage options exceed those of its cloud competitors by offering multiple local external hard drive remote access in addition to access to images on mobile devices, access that can have you uploading and downloading images from remote external hard drives wherever you may be.
The concept has evolved since it was first made public in 2009, three years after the company, Cloud Engines, was incorporated.  In 2010, the company received 15 million dollars, which has financed marketing of the product worldwide. With offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, the company’s CEO, Daniel Putterman is no stranger to tech devices, nor to launching start-ups in Silicon Valley. The software that linked entertainment devices such as televisions to computers, was Putterman’s prior
When I heard of Pogoplug, I was somewhat hesitant to consider using another cloud service with so many already available, much less one, until recently, that required an external hard drive and Pogoplug device in order to operate. After using it and learning about their new plan, Pogoplug PC, for unlimited storage without any of the external hardware with easy drag-and-drop uploads from your desktop, my thinking did an about-face because of its affordability and convenience for my massive image portfolio.
Pogoplug shows previews of jpeg, but not Raw files, making
The main caveat of the platform, oddly enough, isn’t its functionality, which is excellent, but lies in its seemingly confusing descriptions and names of its products and plans. My challenges with the product began with my first exposure to the services and devices Cloud Engine offers, namely the aforementioned product, Pogoplug PC, a name that could lead potential customers array, leaving them thinking that the platform is only for Windows (which it is not).   This is only one of the ambiguous processes of deciphering Pogoplug’s confusing storage plans and options, which were an off-putting issue for me.
Pogoplug has two different plans. The newest plan, Pogoplug Cloud, is the service’s unlimited cloud storage/back-up that provides easily accessible file access much like plans offered by Google Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive, storing image files and folders on Pogoplug servers or those at Amazon S3 without any of the hardware that’s required for the Pogoplug Family plan. The unlimited back-up/storage plan doesn’t include the unique initial offering with local remote back-up/storage capabilities, which is the option that separates Pogoplug from the rest of the kids on the block. The unlimited back-up plan costs $60/year.
The second plan, Pogoplug Family, offers unlimited backup and remote hard drive access (on-site cloud storage) and 100 GB of offsite cloud storage (stored on the less easily accessible archival storage, Amazon Glacier) for up to 5 family members  $29/year; unlimited backup (on-site cloud storage) and 300 GB of offsite cloud storage for up to 5 family members  $49/year; unlimited backup (on-site cloud storage) and 1 TB of offsite cloud storage for up to 7 family members  $99/year.
The decision you have to make before considering Pogoplug is whether or not you want remote access for up to five hard drives with the Pogoplug device, which is free for a limited time along with limited cloud archival space (often referred to as cold storage) or unlimited cloud space with easy access (often referred to as hot storage) . Personally, I prefer the former because I have many external hard drives with thousands of files on each that are accessible anywhere I go.
If you want 1 TB of storage, storage that is quick to retrieve when needed, yet worry-free in terms of having to deal directly with storage hardware problems, you can make a choice between Pogoplug and Google Drive. The first consideration you’ll probably make is price, which recently for most services has come down into an affordable range for many amateur and professional photographers.
Evaluating price considerations you need to realize that generally the more storage you buy from a service, the less expensive each GB will cost. How much less is dependent on the service. At the time of writing of this article if you want to store larger amounts of data such as 1TB, Pogoplug Cloud (about $60/year for unlimited storage) is a much better deal than Google Drive (about $720/year).
If you compare the storage costs for smaller amounts of data between Pogoplug Family and Google Drive, you’ll discover it challenging because with that small amount of storage, both offer different kinds of service. At Google, storing small/moderate amount of data, say, 100 GB of hot storage is about $60/year with Google, and at Pogoplug it’s $30/year for unlimited remote access of external hard drives with 100 GB of cold storage.
A comparison of the back-up service of Carbonite and Pogoplug is a whole another ball game. You first have to note the distinction between back-up and storage to understand how the two services differ.  A back-up of a computer or external hard drive is an ongoing process of the service providers’ file and folder replication of the content (images) on a device, and storage means just that–server space to store your image folders and files.  The former involves a process whereby the service accesses and deletes files that you have deleted on your computer. In other words, you have given the service the option of deleting your files when you do, a factor when considering the security of your images.
While Carbonite and Pogoplug cost about the same for uploading unlimited data (about $60/year), there is a huge difference in the services they provide. Carbonite Home is online backup for only the data on a one computer. It doesn’t back-up external hard drives. Keeping that and the fact that most computers don’t nearly have the amount of hard drive space as external hard drives, Pogoplug is a much better bang for your buck if you want remote access to external hard drives as part of your data storage plan.
Pogoplug’s advantage over Carbonite, keeping in mind that the later offers only online backup—not online storage, is that the photos you upload to the cloud are not deleted when you delete them on your computer.  Carbonite keeps files that you have placed in the trash or garbage (and emptied) for 30 days. The Backblaze service also has a similar timetable for deleting files that have been placed in the trash and emptied on your computer.
Once your connections are in place, the Pogoplug website, like other similar storage services permits one-click connections to email, Facebook, Google+ and/or Twitter for photo by sharing via a URL given to it when it was uploaded.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the speed at which Pogoplug uploads and downloads files compared to other services. I tested the transfer speed differences for uploads between Pogoplug and Google Drive and found that Pogoplug is a bit slower uploading than Google Drive. Google uploads a 24 MB in 4 minutes using my Internet connection, which isn’t the fastest. For the same file, Pogoplug clocked in at 4 1/2 minutes.  Download speeds for both platforms are significantly faster, making the difference in speeds negligible.
Recall that Pogoplug not only backs-up off-site, but also permits you to back-up images to your external hard drives at home or the office regardless of your location. For instance, you can upload your images while connected to the Internet in Marrakech, Morocco and have them saved in your external hard drive in seconds. In my test, onsite uploads from remote locations for the 24 MB file was only 11 seconds. Knowing that you can backup your images quickly on a hard drive at home or the office when traveling will have you worrying less if your computer ends up missing or if goes on the fritz, loosing all data on its hard drive.
Hardware and Software
Since I have chosen to use Pogoplug’s Family Plan, I needed to have the required external hard drive and a Pogoplug device for this service. There are a number of devices from which to choose. The one the company, Cloud Engines, sent me to use for testing contained two ports: one for the external hard drive connection, another for the Ethernet connection. Devices are available for connecting up to five external hard drives, permitting all of the files on them to be remotely accessed via the Pogoplug Website using an Internet connection.
The Pogoplug device be set up to automatically to back up all of your computers and devices to the external hard drive(s) that you have hooked up to it at your home or office location. That external device doesn’t have to be empty. In other words, all existing files on the drive can also be also accessed remotely with an Internet connection.
Finally, there is one additional item you can use to efficiently use both Pogoplug Family and Pogoplug Cloud– Pogoplug software downloaded and installed to your computer or laptop–that allows you to drag and drop folders of data to upload to the onsite external hard drive and/or the cloud. The drag and drop option on the website only uploads image files so that this software is a must for accessing a large set of images organized in folders.
The Lowdown
After testing backing up folders and files using both Pogoplug Family and Pogoplug Cloud, I discovered a real deal for back-up and storage of my photography portfolio that was worth the money Cloud Engines was charging.  To be sure, there were a few noticeable flaws in the service, the first relating Raw and Tiff image files, which successfully downloaded and uploaded, but couldn’t be previewed online. This glitch I’m sure is being worked on, as all Jpeg files previewed just fine on the website.
Like Google Drive, Pogoplug enables you to choose what you want to backup,  allows access to your image files via mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android) via downloadable apps and creates a URL for each image that you can email or post to a social networking website such as Facebook or Twitter. You can access your backed-up files on these devices either through an app that you download to them or by accessing your files on their website from the browser installed on your device.
About the author

Matthew Bamberg

Matthew Bamberg has provided photographs and written articles for various Southern California newspapers and magazines, including The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise. More recently, Matt has been teaching at UC Riverside while also authoring several books like the Quick and Easy Secrets book series (Cengage), Killer Photos with Your iPhone (with Kris Krug and Greg Ketchum, Cengage), the 50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco (Cengage) and Digital Art Photography For Dummies (Wiley).